"Possible Greenland " - Die Erde als Common Ground. Interview mit Bjarke Ingels
Was hat Grönland mit dem dänischen Pavillon zu tun? Die mit 2650 km Länge größte Insel der Erde wird zwar geologisch zum arktischen Nordamerika gezählt, politisch ist sie jedoch ein selbstverwalteter autonomer Teil des Königreichs Dänemark. Noch sind lediglich ca. 20 % der Fläche Grönlands eisfrei, doch das wird sich ändern: In den nächsten 40 Jahren wird die Weltbevölkerung um 50 % wachsen, die Klimaveränderung unter anderem zum Abschmelzen der bis zu 2000 Meter dicken Eisschicht Grönlands führen und der steigende Wohlstand Asiens und Afrikas wird eine unersättliche Nachfrage nach Bodenschätzen hervorbringen.
Die arktische Region ist die durch die globale Erwärmung am stärksten betroffene auf der Erdoberfläche. Durch das Abschmelzen der Eisschicht entstehen neben dem Suezkanal und dem Panamakanal über die in Zukunft eisfreie Nordwestpassage entlang der Westküste Grönlands neue Seewege zwischen Asien, Europa und Amerika. Angesichts dieser Entwicklungen rückt Grönland geografisch von der Peripherie ins Zentrum der weltweiten Aufmerksamkeit und wird zum Tor dieser neuen Möglichkeiten. Doch wie können die 56.000 Einwohner der Insel von diesen Entwicklungen profitieren, ohne von ausländischen Interessen übervorteilt zu werden?
Grönland und Dänemark verbinden Jahrhunderte gemeinsamer kultureller und politischer Vergangenheit, und so ist es naheliegend, dass die Beiträge für den dänischen Pavillon der Architekturbiennale 2012 aus gemischten Teams aus grönländischen und dänischen Architekten und Künstlern bestehen. "Greenland Connecting" lautet der Beitrag des Teams "Global Hub", bestehend aus den Grönländern Tegnestuen Nuuk und Inuk Silis Høeghden sowie dem dänischen Büro BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group und Julie Edel Harenberg.
Wie können die Potenziale für Handel und Tourismus im Zusammenhang mit dem stark ansteigenden Bedarf an einer besseren Zugänglichkeit der bislang abgelegenen Insel und besseren Transportmitteln optimal genutzt werden? Das wichtigste Transportmittel, um die verstreuten Siedlungen zu erreichen ist das Flugzeug, für den Warentransport ist der Schiffsverkehr entscheidend. Die Greenlandic Transport Commision empfiehlt daher eine Verlegung des nationalen transatlantischen Flughafens von Kangerlussuaq nach Nuuk, der Hauptstadt und mit ca. 16 000 Einwohnern größten Siedlung Grönlands. Für die Ausweitung des Schiffsverkehrs empfielt sie die Öffnung der Passage nördlich von Grönland, die so genannte Nordwestpassage, um neue Seewege zu erschließen.
DETAIL-Redakteur Frank Kaltenbach befragte Bjarke Ingels (BIG) zum Konzept des "Air + Port" in Nuuk, der die zukünftigen Anforderungen an Handel und Tourismus durch die Kombination eines internationalen Flughafens mit einem Umschlagsplatz für die Schifffahrt kombinieren soll.
DETAIL: Bjarke, what is "Air + Port" about?
Bjarke Ingels: The whole idea of the project is to identify change - or imminent change - and to find out what are the potential spin offs or consequences.
DETAIL: Considered the recent developments in Greenland, how did you deal with such a complex project?
Bjarke Ingels: Our propositions as architects can become tools in the public debate about what to do and how to embrace the future. I think for that purpose, at an early stage, to make things very simple is important.
DETAIL: The scheme of your project looks very schematic and iconic. How do you set the concepts and how important are the typology and/or the aesthetics ?
Bjarke Ingels: The Air + Port as the idea of the port and the airfield overlaying is a response to the different topography of a mountain in relation to an airfield. It is actually almost like a bridge spanning from summit to summit with the terminal building lying underneath the airfield. All these elements are quite complex but you distil them into their simplest form. The whole idea of combining an airport and a seaport is almost symbolized by the "+". Since so far we are trying to inform the public and initiate a political debate we really don't want to get lost in very complex details. When you see the Air + Port, it seems almost self-evident and straightforward. This makes it less fragile to a controverse discussion.
DETAIL: Yesterday in the discussion here in the Danish Pavilion there was the concern that with the new economical boom the Greenlanders will be "colonized" by foreign developers and firms from abroad. How do you think the Air + Port project will be to the benefit of the local society and not only a help for foreign companies to earn a lot of money?
Bjarke Ingels: I wouldn't be so xenophobic against inviting skilled labour. As the Vice President mentioned when Norway discovered oil, they were definitely not an economic super power in the world. Since then they've become the richest country on the planet and now 86,000 people are employed in the oil industry.
Greenland currently has a population of 56,000 people - so they will need to bring people into the country to help with their contributions. The necessary investment into the industrial port deals with the repositioning in the global flow of goods and the need for shipping out resources. By combining that with the international airport in Nuuk you could actually create a much more financially sustainable service of air traffic. That would diminish the air fare prices for the everyday Greenlander and vastly improve their internal connectivity. It will make Greenland much more accessible to the rest of the world and vice versa. So already by combining the airport and the sea port we are creating a synergy that instantly improves the conditions for the Greenlanders, both in the short term but also in the long term.
DETAIL: What is your approach, how did you start the project?
Bjarke Ingels: The first thing we did was to travel to Greenland a few times within this project in order to meet with the local collaborators. They also visited us in our office in Copenhagen to understand the way we work. In the beginning we tried to gather as much information as possible and tried to get a clear understanding of what are the different issues that are currently developing. That of course created a quite complex image, looking at the flow of goods, looking at the flow of people. We identified a lot of concerns and a lot of potential changes.
DETAIL: In what phase of development is the project? Will it be realised for sure, and if yes when – in 10 years, in 100 years or when all the glaciers are gone completely?
Bjarke Ingels: I think in architecture and urbanism nothing is certain ever. I was just speaking with the Vice President of Greenland yesterday. He said he read through the reports and statement by statement he agreed completely. However, there are still a lot of complex issues, like the existing airport belonging to another municipality which does not want to give it up without a fight. At the same time, with all the reports by the Greenlandic commission of transportation, the officials all unanimously enhance that an industrial harbour and an international airport is necessary in the long run. So I think the manifestation of the Air + Port is immanent with the foreseeable future.
DETAIL: How far have you already developed the scheme? Are there already any conceptional ground plans or layouts for circulation diagrams?
Bjarke Ingels: Not really. The project we've done is very much based on the hard facts we've been working with the airport engineers. The orientation of the runway is the right one, the "island" where we have located the project is probably the right one. The position on the island could be debated though, also we would have to do some more water measurements. So of course there's still a lot more planning to do. But the whole project is based on five decades of research and sketching on the idea of a new airport. In that sense it is much more than some kind of out-of-the-blue concept.
DETAIL: Did you have any historical references? Projects regarding the combination of different ways of infrastructure like airports and railwaystations have existed since the futurists.
Bjarke Ingels: We always try to establish as many references as we possibly can. I really believe you become a better architect by studying architecture. Of course, this idea of putting a Euclidean, almost 3 km long, ultra abstract runway through a sort of dramatic rocky landscape has some references to Superstudio as a continous monument. Superstudio are the sort of utopian intellectuals we like to refer to. The big difference to Superstudio or the futurists is that we are proposing not some abstract idea but actually a very tangible proposition as a manifestation of a pragmatic utopia. It shows that within a specific sight, operating in a specific set of conditions, you can actually create almost utopian visions.
DETAIL: I guess the need for having the combination of port and airport could be a universal solution not only for Nuuk. Are you already planning to apply the scheme to other places in the world?
Bjarke Ingels: I'm always very sceptical about universal applications but I definitely think this could be a possibility. It's transferable, and if nothing else the fact that it's so clear to communicate would make it capable of mediating the idea of hybridity and synergy. There are other examples that demonstrate that if a project is so clear that you can easily talk about it and you can easily show it, it will have greater resonance. Projects that clearly distil a single aspect into a very simple form have this potential to project ideas into the world, that otherwise are very complex to comunicate.
DETAIL: Do you have an example?
Bjarke Ingels: The waste energy power plant we are doing in Copenhagen, which turns waste into energy and heat. Because of the magnitude of the building we proposed to put a public park on the roof, that is also a ski slope in winter. Just the idea that it's so easy to understand and the radical approach of having a public park and a playground on the roof as a piece of public infrastructure has made this project famous. Time Magazine awarded it one of the 50 best ideas of the year, and it was shown on CNN-television channel. This happened only because of the unconventional combination of social public programmes with public investments and infrastructure. It became the image for the idea of turning waste into energy.
DETAIL: Thank you very much for the interview.
Interview und Fotos: Frank Kaltenbach, München
Die Architekturbiennale 2012 unter dem Titel "Common Ground" in Venedig läuft noch bis zum 25. November.